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Mazda continuing development of Wankel rotary engine

Mazda

 (Mazda)

The rotary engine is still spinning at Mazda.

The automaker ceased production of its Wankel motors in 2012, but Mazda president Masamichi Kogai told Autocar that he still has a team working “very enthusiastically” on the technology in an effort to make it viable for future use.

Compact rotary engines have long been highly regarded for their power density and turbine-smooth operation, but the relatively poor torque, efficiency, and emissions performance endemic to the design have kept them from competing with piston engines in mainstream cars.

Kogai didn’t reveal exactly how Mazda is addressing those issues, but added that it won’t bring back rotaries until they can compete with conventional engines. Along with powering sports cars like the RX-7, Mazda has used rotaries as range-extenders in several hybrid prototypes, including a hydrogen-burning model that Fox News tested in 2009.

But while Mazda’s success at resurrecting the rotary is far from assured, the 40th anniversary of the RX-7 is coming up in 2018. A successor to that is rumored to be revealed then, which makes it a tempting target date to get the job done by.

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